This blog is a continuation of a series designed to help our customers identify which rack system best fits their needs. In this article, we offer some advice to those who own a vehicle with a factory rack.
You’re ready to get to the water with your new or future boat but are realizing that you might need more than just the basic factory rack that came installed on your car. Why? There are three main problems that can arise with factory racks which include low load capacities, incompatibility with aftermarket accessories and a lack of cross bars.
Common Factory Rack Issues
The problem that many factory racks pose is that they just aren’t designed to hold a lot of weight. In general, factory racks have weight capacities that average half of aftermarket base rack systems. Sometimes this means that carrying more than a single boat can be a problem. Of course, load capacity will vary based on the make and model of your vehicle so you’ll need to look into specifics with your car’s manufacturer. In some situations, it might be possible to remove your factory rack to replace it with an aftermarket system (though sometimes it won’t be) or you might have to look into mounting a trailer to your vehicle.
Another problem is that even well designed factory racks can be incompatible with the wide variety of aftermarket accessories that exist. This makes sense because these accessories were designed to fit their respective rack systems but can pose a problem when you want to customize your loading options. That being said, some accessories will be designed to fit particular kinds of factory systems so checking specifications and fit guides should be your first step. Sometimes you might even be able to replace factory cross bars with aftermarket railing systems outlined below which are compatible with many accessories.
If you are satisfied with the customization and load capacity of your factory cross bars, then there are a few products you might find helpful. Of course, for any rack owner looking to carry a kayak it will be necessary to own a pair of tie down straps but you will also want to look into padding for your rack. We offer a number of pads (find them all here) that will protect your roof rack and kayak from suffering damage when loading the boat, the most common of which is simple scratching where the surfaces meet.
Finally, cars often come outfitted only with railings which won’t be very helpful for loading a canoe or kayak. We wanted to outline options for vehicle owners with factory railings but no cross bars, as we carry several products designed for these situations.
The bottom line: Inexpensive, fast & easy to install system that’s adequate for carrying a single boat.
For those who don’t have a whole lot to haul or money to spend, a foam and strap system is something to consider. These temporary rack systems involve straps that circle through the inside of your car along the roof and over the top, where they are attached to foam padding. These are compatible with factory railings IF the straps have adequate space to slide beneath, over or through the railings – however they are not usually designed with railings in mind. Quick and easy to install and remove, these racks are great at carrying a single boat. However, it is important to keep in mind that the foam pads are usually located around the middle of your roof so this is where weight and pressure will be coming down. If your car’s roof has a sensitive area like a sun roof, you’ll want to see if these can be installed around it, otherwise a foam and strap system might not be a good fit for you.
Basic Railing Crossbar Systems
Vehicle’s outfitted with railings but not crossbars can install these systems designed specifically for this situation. Compared to strap and pad systems these crossbars can carry a much heavier load and are compatible with a number of accessories that allows you to customize your setup, all of which can be found here. These systems involve installing four towers or footpacks that attach to the railings and then connecting a cross bar between each pair. A common misconception is that the installation of these is complicated and permanent when in fact they are fairly easy to install and are considered temporary though they can be left on permanently.
We currently carry three different railing crossbar systems: Thule Load Bars with Thule Crossroad Railing Foot Pack, Yakima Crossbars with Yakima RailGrab Towers & the Malone Universal Cross Rail System.
Premium Railing Crossbar Systems
If you want all the extra features and are willing to spend the money, look no further. These are the newest and most top of the line rack systems, with sleeker, aerodynamic designs meant to reduce driving noise (it is significant) and increase fuel efficiency. Otherwise, these systems are very similar to their less expensive siblings as they are temporary but can be left on permanently, are compatible with most accessories and can hold on average between two and three hundred pounds.
A factory rack is not always something that needs fixing. However, they are limited in what they can offer paddlers when compared to aftermarket rack options. It’s also important to remember that each situation is different and what works for one vehicle might not for another. For those looking into adding aftermarket crossbars, check out the very extensive the fit guides from Thule and Yakima. If you have questions or comments remember to share them below! – Joseph@ACK